I have resided in my current home for just a little over a year. This neighborhood could be considered upper-middle class, although these sorts of labels never meant much to me. People are people and I could get along pretty much anywhere. Having said that, however, it would be misleading to imply there aren’t certain inherent advantages to living in this kind of neighborhood. It is also true that there are some disadvantages, and how one fits in with the “look” of the neighborhood can shed some light on these factors.
The crime rate here is low. There is no poverty nearby; there are no have-nots in this neighborhood. Therefore, those inclined to less than honorable means of sustenance are not in the immediate area. Furthermore, the home values are not deflated by the intermittent unkempt property. Those that have attained this level of success are statistically better educated. They don’t generally have “jobs,” but rather, careers and can afford the price of living here. My path here was somewhat unusual, but some of these descriptors apply to me too.
There is, however, a darker side to this apparent wealth. All this higher education may have increased the collective enlightenment, but it is not apparent in the character of the neighborhood. Indeed, this neighborhood has very little character at all. Although “outsiders” are viewed with caution bordering on suspicion, the determining factor as to who is an “outsider” is not familiarity. It can’t be because no one here knows each other let alone who an “outsider” is. Therefore, if one has not the stereotypical look of an upper middle class suburbanite; if one does not drive the appropriate and appropriately new automobile; and if one fails to conform, then he is viewed through a different filter.
The picture posted here represents a contradiction and the contradiction goes well beyond the surface. It was taken last August after I was settled in and was the second occasion I had to throw a party. This one happened to be a birthday party for a friend and approximately 30 guests were in attendance. As one can gather from the photo, many of my friends are motorcyclists. Our machine of choice: Harley-Davidson. Regular readers of this blog know how I feel about riding in general and riding Harleys in particular. My neighbors don’t… or at least they didn’t (I think they do now).
These are not inexpensive motorcycles. The least expensive has a value of over $10,000 with the most expensive probably topping $40,000. These guys (and gals) represent white collar and blue collar alike. They are all highly skilled professionals and make a considerable amount of money. It is something they have in common with my neighbors, although my neighbors probably don’t have a necessarily wide enough field of vision to see it. Just as one doesn’t come to live in an area such as this by taking advantage of society, so too is it true that one does not enjoy such an expensive “hobby” with the same anti-social values.
Many of my neighbors only see the black leather, tattoos, shiny motorcycles with lots of chrome and at least one hold out (me) with long hair and they equate that to the Hollywood stereotype of the “outlaw” biker and the motorcycle gangs of the big screen. Although these do exist, they are among the extreme minority and are rarely seen is out in plain sight. The last place they would be found is in front of my home - or... out on the golf course. That’s right, some of them are avid golfers too, maybe playing right through my neighbors foursome!
I hold no animosity towards these hard working, affluent, social isolationists. I feel sorry for them – they are prejudging the richness of community right out of their lives. They are, to me so far, harmless. Only once has the cops been called on me and it didn’t amount to anything more than embarrassment for my next-door neighbor. Her preconceived idea about who I was clouded her judgment – and the sheriff’s deputy was happy to explain that to her.
Today, a year later, my neighbors actually do know at least one of their neighbors - me - by sight if nothing else. And they know that I belong here… and that from time to time there might be a motorcycle or two or three and sometimes more rumbling up the street. And they know that it’s ok. And maybe, just maybe next time they will step out of that suit of armor they feel the need to wear and risk acknowledging that they just might not know what they think they do.